CLEVELAND, Ohio — Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Tim McGinty announced Monday afternoon that a grand jury will not bring charges against the two officers involved in the shooting death of 12-year-old Tamir Rice.
Police were called to Cudell Recreation Center in Cleveland on Nov. 22, 2014 after a 911 caller reported a male in the area waving a gun.
“There’s a guy with a pistol,” the 911 caller told dispatch. “The guy keeps pulling it out. It’s probably fake.”
The officers were not told the gun may be fake before they arrived on scene.
Officer Frank Garmback was driving the police cruiser and stopped next to a gazebo, putting him and Officer Timothy Loehmann between Rice and the rec center. Police say they ordered Rice to drop the weapon before Loehmann fired twice.
Tamir Rice had an airsoft pistol that police say looked like a real gun.
The 12-year-old suffered one gunshot wound to the stomach and was taken to MetroHealth Medical Center, where he died the following day.
**For the entire Cuyahoga County Prosecutor’s report on the shooting death of Tamir Rice, click here**
McGinty said from the information that was given to them, the officers were prepared to face a possible active shooter at the park.
He added that Loehmann had reason to fear for his life as he got out of the cruiser and saw a male with what appeared to be a gun.
“It would be irresponsible or unreasonable if the officer was required to wait and see if the gun was real,” he said.
McGinty said both Tamir Rice and Loehmann were both “no doubt frightened.” He said Tamir Rice likely intended to hand the airsoft gun over to the officers or show them it wasn’t real.
“But there was no way the officers would know that,” he said, adding they were seeing the situation from a different point of view.
McGinty added that the entire incident was a “perfect storm of human error.”
“The death of Tamir Rice was an absolute tragedy,” he said. “But it was not, by the law that binds us, a crime.”
McGinty said he called Tamir Rice’s mother to tell her the grand jury’s decision. Tamir Rice’s family released a statement through their attorney, saying they were “saddened and disappointed, but not surprised” by the decision. They are also renewing their request that the Department of Justice step in to conduct a “real investigation into this tragic shooting of a 12-year-old child.” Read more here.
“It was a rough call,” said McGinty, who recommended to the grand jury that no charges be filed.
McGinty said that there have been lessons learned already since the shooting of Tamir Rice.
“It should never happen again, and steps have been taken to make sure it is not,” he said.
McGinty said the city has since bought body cameras. Dash cameras are on the way for city police and suburban departments, he said.
“Now it is time for the community and all of us to start to heal,” said McGinty.
**For a complete transcript of McGinty’s remarks, scroll to the bottom of this page**
After McGinty spoke, Assistant Prosecutor Matt Meyer, chief of the Public Corruption Unit, went through the entire chain of events from that day.
Meyer said Rice spent several hours at the rec center the day of the shooting with the airsoft pistol.
Meyer said Tamir Rice got the airsoft pistol from a friend, who told investigators he’d removed the orange tip from the gun. The same friend warned Tamir of the “dangerousness” of using the gun, Meyer said.
Meyer showed a real gun vs. a replica of the airsoft pistol Rice had that day to show how similar they are.
Meyer emphasized that Tamir Rice was seen several times pulling the gun in and out of his waistband and pointing it at people. He also emphasized that the man who called 911 initially reporting his concerns about Tamir told dispatchers that the gun may not be real.
That information was not passed on to the officers, Meyer said.
After the shooting, Meyer said Loehmann told another officer who arrived on scene that “(Tamir) gave me no choice…there was nothing I could do.”
Meyer added that Loehmann was seen kicking the airsoft pistol onto the grass nearly 41 seconds after the shooting. He said that indicates Loehmann thought he was dealing with a real firearm.
“This case is a culmination of a tragic confluence of events,” said Loehmann, emphasizing that officers were dealing with a boy who appeared to be much older than 12.
McGinty said at the press conference that he wants to call on legislature and manufacturers to not make toy guns that look real.
He left the press conference without answering questions. McGinty did say he may answer questions later in the day.
Following the announcement, Cleveland Police Union President Steve Loomis responded and said, “Nobody’s celebrating” but the union believes grand jury made the correct call.
“Our hearts and prayers go out to the Rice family as well the officers that have been involved in this,” he said. “We have a ton of respect for the grand jury and not buying into the rhetoric and some of the nonsense that’s been going on out here. They made a thoughtful decision.”
Union lawyer Henry Hilow said, “We can’t look at this only through a two-second video.”
He believes the grand jury looked at the totality of the circumstances.
OFFICERS INVOLVED IN THE CASE:
Cleveland police hired Loehmann as an officer in March 2014. Previously, he was employed by the Independence Police Department, but resigned when he learned they had started the termination process.
His personnel file from Independence showed he was distracted and weepy during a state qualification course. It described Loehmann’s “dangerous loss of composure during live range training and his inability to manage personal stress.”
A deputy chief wrote Loehmann did not have the maturity to work in the department, and that “time, nor training” would correct his deficiencies.
Garmback, who was Loehmann’s training officer, started working for the city of Cleveland in 2008. He received a Medal of Heroism for an October 2011 incident involving a man with a gun.
The Cuyahoga County Prosecutor’s Office received the criminal investigation in June and released the following reports:
The entire statement read by McGinty during Monday’s press conference is as follows:
“Four years ago, I retired as a judge to run for County Prosecutor to make our Criminal Justice System more transparent, professional and accountable.
I believed that greater openness would reduce the errors that had cost lives.
One promise I made was to fundamentally change how cases are handled when a police officer kills a civilian – to end the traditional system where the prosecutor privately reviewed police reports, then decided if an officer should be charged.
That secrecy — which appeared arbitrary without a public investigative report — undermined community confidence.
It was clear we needed a more rigorous, independent investigation of police use of deadly force cases.
Although not required by Ohio law, I now have all evidence reviewed not just by the prosecutor or this office, but by the citizens of the Grand Jury sitting as an investigative panel.
They hear all the evidence and make the final call.
Our office also shares with the public completed independent investigative reports so that there will be no mystery or rumors about what occurred in a citizen’s death.
This transparency gives our community an opportunity to correct errors in policy, training, tactics, hiring or equipment far more quickly — instead of waiting, sometimes for years, until the opportunity and enthusiasm for reform are lost.
We want lessons learned and applied.
That is what we have done and will do in all 20 use of deadly force cases that have come to this office in the past three years.
Today, a Cuyahoga County Grand Jury completed its thorough investigation into the fatal shooting of 12-year-old Tamir Rice on November 22, 2014 at the Cudell Recreation Center.
Based on the evidence they heard and on the law as it applies to police use of deadly force, the Grand Jury declined to bring criminal charges against Cleveland Police Officers Timothy Loehmann and Frank Garmback.
That was also my recommendation and that of our office after reviewing the investigation and the law.
A short time ago, we informed Tamir’s mother of the Grand Jury’s decision.
It was a tough conversation.
We again expressed the condolences of our office, the Sheriff’s detectives and everyone else who has worked so diligently on this case — and our sincere wish that the events of that traumatic day at Cudell Rec Center had unfolded differently.
We explained to her that this was a difficult decision, but that to charge police, even in a situation as undeniably tragic as the death of her son, the State must be able to show that the officers acted outside the constitutional boundaries set forth by the Supreme Court of the United States.
Simply put, given this perfect storm of human error, mistakes and miscommunication by all involved that day, the evidence did not indicate criminal conduct by police.
On close examination— especially of what is perhaps the most critical piece of evidence, a very recent enhancement of the surveillance video by an expert laboratory often relied on by the FBI — it is now indisputable that Tamir was drawing his gun from his waist as the police car slid toward him and Officer Loehmann exited the vehicle.
At the point where they suddenly came together, both Tamir and the rookie officer were no doubt frightened.
If we put ourselves in the victim’s shoes, as prosecutors and detectives try to do, it is likely that Tamir — whose size made him look much older and who had been warned that his pellet gun might get him into trouble that day — either intended to hand it to the officers or to show them it wasn’t a real gun.
But there was no way for the officers to know that because they saw the events rapidly unfolding in front of them from a very different perspective.
Minutes before, they had been assigned to respond to a Code One report of a “guy” pointing a gun at “people” outside the rec center — that “guy,” they had been told, was dressed exactly as Tamir was.
As they raced the mile toward the rec center, the police were prepared to face a possible active shooter in a neighborhood with history of violence.
There are in fact memorials to two slain Cleveland Police officers in that very park. And both had been shot to death nearby in the line of duty.
Police are trained that it takes only a third of a second to draw and fire a weapon at them — and therefore they must react quickly to any threat.
Officer Loehmann had just seen Tamir put an object into his waist as he stood up in the gazebo and started walking away.
A moment later, as the car slid toward him, Tamir drew the replica gun from his waist and the officer fired.
Believing he was about to be shot was a mistaken — yet reasonable— belief given the high-stress circumstances and his police training.
He had reason to fear for his life.
This outcome will not cheer anyone, nor should it.
Every time I think about this case, I cannot help but feel that the victim here could have been my own son or grandson.
Everyone who investigated this case feels the same way.
All of our children go to parks and rec centers.
No parent follows their 12-year-old around all day to make sure they don’t get into mischief.
That is why this case taps such profound emotions in us all.
The Rice family has suffered a grievous loss.
Nothing will replace Tamir in their lives.
The police officers and the police department must live with the awful knowledge that their mistakes – however unintentional – led to the death of a 12-year-old boy.
So will the police radio personnel whose errors were a substantial contributing factor to the tragic outcome.
They passed along detailed information about the “guy” outside the rec center’s clothing, including the colors of his coat and his camouflage hat, but not the all-important facts that the 9-1-1 caller said the gunman was “probably a juvenile” and the gun might not be real.
Had the officers been aware of those qualifiers, the training officer who was driving might have approached the scene with less urgency.
Lives may not have been put at stake.
The fact that the Code One, high-priority call about a possible active shooter next to a rec center was based on inaccurate information is very significant legally, but will do little to ease the emotional burdens that the family and all involved now must carry.
Our entire community has suffered through gut-wrenching self-examination and recriminations.
When an innocent civilian – let alone a child – is killed by a police officer, it touches nerves that lie at close to the surface of all of us in our society.
That is especially true since events in places such as Ferguson and Chicago have exposed the gulf of distrust and resentment that too often divides police from the very communities they serve.
And when the public is kept in the dark about the facts of an investigation into these incidents, that distrust grows.
All those emotions are compounded when a 12-year-old boy is killed on video.
But the original grainy video that has been shown repeatedly on TV is only a small part of the story here.
That is why this case demanded a professional and dispassionate investigation to determine if this was indeed a tragic crime – or a tragic accident.
The Supreme Court instructs us to judge an officer’s conduct by what he or she knew at the moment – not by what was learned later.
We are instructed to ask what a reasonable police officer with the knowledge he had would do in this particular situation.
The Supreme Court prohibits second-guessing police tactics with 20/20 hindsight, and the law gives the benefit of the doubt to the officers who must make split-second decisions when they reasonably believe their lives or those of innocent bystanders are in danger.
Based on these rules, it became clear through this investigation that the actions of Officers Loehmann and Garmback were not criminal for reasons that Assistant County Prosecutors Matthew Meyer and James Gutierrez have outlined in a written report that will be available online.
The death of Tamir Rice was an absolute tragedy.
It was horrible, unfortunate and regrettable.
But it was not, by the law that binds us, a crime.
Throughout this process, we, too, have heard the chants.
We, too, want Justice for Tamir.
But justice would not be achieved by bringing charges that would violate the ethical canons of our profession because we know these charges could not be sustained under the law and our Constitution.
This decision does not mean the legal system is finished with this case.
In our country we have parallel systems of justice, and the civil justice system may yet provide the Rice family with some of the accountability they deserve.
But the Grand Jury lived with this case for more than two months, heard all the witnesses and was there to evaluate their credibility.
In cases where police use deadly force against a citizen, we now have other citizens review the evidence and make the final call.
As a local judge recently said, if you don’t trust the Grand Jury, you don’t trust your neighbors.
I trust the people of Cuyahoga County to make the final call – in this case and in every other police use of deadly force case.
This was a horrible event.
It should not happen again, and there already have been lessons learned and that is the positive side of this tragedy.
Already, steps have been taken to assure that these events do not reoccur:
• The city has bought body cams for all its officers. That will help.
• Dash cams are on the way for CPD and suburban departments using $1 million that our office has seized from criminals.
• The consent agreement between the City and the Department of Justice will dramatically change the way the city hires, trains and manages its police. I applaud Mayor Jackson for his leadership on this.
• Finally I want to call on the manufacturers of toy guns not to make guns that look so much like the real thing. If the color and design of Tamir’s pellet gun had screamed “Toy” then the call that set this tragedy in motion might never have been made.
The Grand Jury has fully investigated this case and made its final decision.
Now it is time for our community to learn from this tragedy and start to heal.
Before anyone reaches their own conclusions, please review the facts and the evidence this investigation has uncovered.
I call for the leaders of our community to respect the process and the decision of the Grand Jury and to urge others to express their opinions in a peaceful and lawful manner.”